I am writing this blog post looking out my window onto the busy Boulevard Saint-Michel watching the trees sway in the Spring morning air and cars and motor cycles zoom by. I am going to miss this view, but I will not miss the sound of traffic waking me up at night. I should be finishing my thesis right now, but I wanted to take a break to reflect on my time spent in this magical city. When I started learning French as a little pre-teen with braces and frizzy hair parted in the middle, I dreamed about visiting Paris and maybe even one day having my own apartment with balcony with a wrought-iron window box where I would plant flowers. Ten years later, that dream came true (minus the balcony and window box).
Although Paris is one of the most charming places in the world, it is still a city, a huge city. I’ve survived through all the twists and turns city life has thrown at me and I think I can say I’m a parisienne now, well as parisienne as an expat can be (I’ve ran away from my home country, but there will always be parts of me that are star-spangled). I had every intention of staying in Paris as long as I legally could (my non-EU readers can relate), but another adventure presented itself to me, and I knew deep down it was the right choice. Leave a comment and guess what and where I’m off to next! Maybe I’ll write another blog post about it, after I’ve finished my thesis of course! Anyway, here are 10 things I will and will not miss about living in the city of lights.
5 things I will NOT miss about living in Paris
1. The Pollution
When I arrived in Paris in August, I had just spent the summer in a small town in Vermont for the first part of my Master’s program. When you spend time in a state literally named after it’s green mountains and then move to one of the most populated places in Europe, you notice a difference. By now, I’m used to the air pollution, but every time I go outside of Paris I say to myself “wow, it feels so good to breathe fresh air again!” It’s not always on my mind, but I do think pollution can impact my mental and physical well being. It definitely affects me the worst when I go for a run and chose a path with big boulevards.
2. The Crowds
Being 5’2” (that’s about 158 cm for you non-americans), I feel claustrophobic when there are too many people around. I can’t see, I feel like people sometimes don’t pay attention, and I’m scared of getting squished. On the weekends or busy times of day I get irritated because I have to walk around slow people who are taking up too much room on the already tiny sidewalks. Let’s not even talk about when the metro or the RER is crowded.
I love all alternatives to cars! I do however have a dislike for the electric scooters that are literally everywhere around Paris. They get left n’importe où (why would someone just leave it in the very center of a walkway and not put it off to the side????). I’m afraid of getting hit by one because they ride on the sidewalk as well as in the street. I don’t know maybe I’m just a hater because they look like they’re having fun and I’m not (I am perfectly happy using my feet to get around, thank you!), or maybe I’m just becoming more Parisian by finding something trivial to complain about. Also every Parisian child rides a regular scooter in the street and I’m not exaggerating.
4. People smoking in the street
Yes, it’s true. Lots of French people smoke, and some Parisians even do it walking down the street! Maybe this bothers me so much because I am sensitive to the smell of smoke ( it makes me cough and gives me a headache). Why are you exposing the people who are walking behind you to your second hand smoke Monsieur (or Madame) ?! And why is it okay to smoke a cigarette (or vape) while walking down the street, but taking a coffee to go is a faux pas ?
5. Lack of nature
Finally, what I will not miss about Paris is being far from nature. Yes there are beautiful parks, but jogging or having a picnic in the park is not the same as hiking a mountain, walking in a forest, or swimming in an ocean or a lake. I love city life, but nature is just as important to me. Let me know if you know of places that have a balance of city and nature.
5 things I will miss about living in Paris
1. The metro
It’s so nice not to have to worry about driving through traffic and finding a parking spot. When I’m not walking, I’m in the metro. With so many lines it’s easy to get anywhere in the city in a short amount of time. Plus a metro pass is way less expensive than a car (there are special prices for students and most employers will reimburse you for half the cost each month)!
2. Meeting new people
Paris is a cosmopolitan city and one of the most diverse places I’ve ever lived! Here I’ve been able to meet people from around the globe here in Paris for school, work, or just to discover something new. My girlfriends and I could probably write a book about all of the interesting interactions we’ve had with les français and other expats. This year I made some friends at couch surfing events and I even met my chéri at a language exchange.
3. Endless things to do
You can never get bored in Paris. With so many different quartiers there is always something to discover. Last semester I felt like I was going to an art expo almost every other week. I can’t even count how many Picasso paintings I’ve seen now! There are also fun events going on all the time. I’ve danced at a Soul Train style workshop, gone rollerskating in a restaurant/food market type place, stumbled upon free concerts, been to a pop-up bar in a fancy old mansion, attended an interactive play created by immigrants, and my favorite : having picnics with friends by the Seine or in a garden.
4. La bonne bouffe
Don’t hate me, but French cuisine is not my faaavorite. I’m a vegetarian who likes to eat mostly plant based okay! Traditional French food can be heavy on the meat, butter, and cream. Obviously they have the best pastries and bread of course. Despite my culinary preferences, I still have tried a lot of great food here in Paris! Here’s a list of some of my favorite places to eat in Paris :
Traditional French Cuisine : Bouillon Pigalle
This place has a fun atmosphere and lots of traditional food for a decent price. There are only two vegetarians options for the main dish though : Cauliflower Gratin (so good!) and Cheese Soup.
Israeli Pitas : Mizon
In Marais, a few steps away from the famous As du Falafel, is another Mediterranean restaurant with a line usually out the door. Perfect for a quick, but filling meal, Mizon has pitas for omnivores and veggie people. The best part is the tahini sauce you can drizzle on your pita or dip bread into.
Parisian Italian : La Cappanina
I discovered this restaurant with some friends a few years ago when I did a summer study abroad program. Right by the Panthéon and the charming church Saint Étienne-du-Mont, this cozy little Italian restaurant serves up flavorful al dente pasta dishes.
Vegan Pizza : Hank’s
It’s not weird I swear! Hank’s focaccia style pizzas are topped with yummy veggies and house made gourmet dairy-free “cheese.” Hank’s also has a burger place, which I have yet to try!
My favorite places to try new restaurants include the Marais, the Latin Quarter, and Oberkampf.
5. Walking around the city
Last, but not least. My favorite activity in Paris is simply walking around. Walking alone, with friends, with a significant other, in the morning , in the afternoon, in the evening, and even at night, no matter who I’m with or what time it is, I always enjoy walking in Paris. I love walking (or jogging) in the morning when the city is still waking up and the air is cool and there are few cars. I love walking in the afternoon and the sun comes out and I feel as giddy as a tourist. I love walking in the evening when it’s golden hour and the buildings glow. I love walking at night next along the Seine watching the reflection of the street lamps dance in the water. I love walking with my friends and talking about how lucky we are to be here and how much we’ve grown this past year. I love strolling along the quai with mon amour hand in hand. And I love walking by myself and enjoying just being in this old and special place.
Do you agree with me about Paris? Or have a completely different opinion? Let me know what you like/dislike about where you live !